Troubling picture forming

Let’s go back to Mr. Strand’s letter

In fiscal year 2007-08, KFUO-AM’s operating deficit was $620,698.  Since 2001, the accumulated deficits at the station have been in excess of $3.5 million. The LCMS budget, entrusted to our care by members of our Synod’s congregations, has absorbed these shortfalls for years.  After long and prayerful consideration, it became clear that measures had to be taken to stop the ongoing, staggering losses.

Although some are under the impression that “Issues, Etc.” was profitable and self-supporting, the fact is the program lost approximately $250,000 in the last fiscal year.  While airing for only 18 percent of KFUO-AM’s programming week, “Issues” accounted for more than 40 percent of the station’s total deficit.  These figures are based on the audited financial statements of the LCMS. 

Let’s also look at President Kieschnick’s letter to the editor from March 31 –

Here are the facts surrounding the termination of “Issues, Etc.” This program was cancelled by the Synod’s director of communications after years of attempts to keep the program financially solvent. In fiscal year 2007-08, KFUO-AM’s operating deficit was $620,000. Since 2001, the accumulated deficits of the station have been in excess of $3.5 million. While airing for only 18 percent of KFUO-AM’s programming week, “Issues, Etc.” in the last fiscal year accounted for more than 40 percent ($250,000) of the station’s total deficit. These figures are based on the audited financial statements of the LCMS. As of February 29, two thirds into the current fiscal year, KFUO-AM was on pace to suffer heavy loses again.

Listeners of “Issues, Etc.” have had nine years and countless invitations and opportunities to support the program financially, and some have, but not nearly enough to offset the show’s deep, ongoing losses.

Both documents specifically mention the financial picture as reason for abruptly cancelling the program, specifically “losses”.  A characterization not liked by the LCMS Treasurer.

“Everyone has been indicating that Issues has lost money, and that’s probably somewhat of an unclear description of what it really represents,” Kuchta said. “We have within synod unrestricted net assets that we get each year from districts and from bequests and from individual contributions, and those approximate about $22-million a year. And out of the $22-million a year, we allocate that to various ministries.

“When you allocate the $22-million to ministries and various departments. . . those moneys are gone, so none of those dollars come back. That’s what’s needed to provide the level of ministry or department support to carry on the operations of synod.”

Nothing wrong with a difference of opinion in terms of characterization but BringBackIssues makes an interesting point.

So here’s some focus: out of a budget of $22-million in unrestricted funds for the Missouri Synod, is it worth $250,000 in subsidies to produce Issues Etc., a program that reached thousands of people on radio in the St. Louis area, and produces an estimated 480,000 downloads internationally per quarter? (That’s 1.9-million downloads of 1-hour Christian discussion per year.)

Thirteen cents per download, based on the synod’s own numbers. That should be the focus of this discussion.

Ultimately any perceived or documented shortfall, if this is in fact all about finances, could have been solved by charging for downloads.

Let’s take a step back though and take a snapshot of the big picture.  Specifically where KFUO and “Issues, Etc.” fit in to the overall Synodical budget.

Interpreting financial figures is a lot like interpreting the Bible. In order to properly understand a figure it needs to be put into its proper context. The proper context for this figure is the overall budget for the entire LCMS. Those figures are available to the public. Click here to view the minutes for the May 2007 Board of Directors Meeting. On page 10 of this pdf you will see the departmental breakdown for the entire budget.

What you will discover is that the KFUO budget for both the AM and FM stations comprises ONLY 3% of the entire synodical budget. Then with just a little math you will also be able to calculate that the Issues Etc. budgetary shortfall of $250,000 comprises less than 1% of the entire synodical budget. (one quarter of 1% to be exact) .

It raises the obvious question of why be concerned about something that was less than 1% of the overall budget.  But since there was the concern and the door was opened others have taken a deeper look.  This deeper look is resulting in a troubling picture taking shape based on information uncovered by SavetheLCMS.  That information makes you start to wonder but adding this could be icing on the cake.

We have come to be in the possession of a copy of a document that details the spending activity of KFUO during 2006 – 2007! This is the same period that David Strand claimed that KFUO AM lost $620,698 and directly tied the cancellation of Issues Etc. to those losses.

The document that we’ve acquired gives the financial details behind Strand’s figure but it also reveals a plethora of accounting oddities and anomalies that completely call that figure into question and even worse it calls into question the entire management team of KFUO including Dennis Stortz, Chuck Rathert, and David Strand.

Furthermore, it completely calls into question the ‘business reasons’ cited by both David Strand and Dr. Kieschnick as the reasoning for canceling Issues Etc.

We want our readers to also know that we’ve taken great pains to abide by the 8th commandment and that we confirmed the authenticity of this document before we set out to publish it.

You can download the document by clicking here.

Here’s a graphical breakdown of the Personnel costs noted in the above document.

Numbers tell the story and at this point the numbers that account for a meager 3% of the overall budget don’t tell a good one.